Sunday, November 28, 2010

Family Research Council: a hate group? Can junk social science save it from opprobrium?

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins
- a regular on TV news shows
The Family Research Council has lashed out at the Southern Poverty Law Center - a "massively funded liberal group" for designating as a "hate group" the conservative promotional powerhouse - sponsors of the annual Values Voters Summit to which conservative politicians flock.  `Advancing Faith, Family, and Freedom' their banner asserts.  "Mainstream media" seek out FRC spokespersons in quest of `balanced' presentations.
Richard Cohen at US Supreme Court
SPLC founder Morris Dees

One of FRC's claims is that the designation is a fundraising and publicity ploy by SPC.  Perhaps so.   We are accustomed to the idea that "hate groups" specialize in crude group libels "the Protocols of Zion show that the Jews... ", or see implausible conspiracies  (the Rockefeller Trilateral Commission..."), or call for extreme measures (drive the Arabs from Eretz Israel...")  

But what about a group that says that it bases its views not on characteristics of birth, but rather on an "empirical question, subject to being verified"?  That evidence, it asserts, shows that homosexuality is a choice, not a trait and that the "natural family" serves its members and society better than any other form.  Should they be lumped with the neo-Nazis and the Aryan Nation? Or is that just the hyperbole from which we need wean our public dialog?  

Curiosity led me to  FRC's  " The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality" - an FRC fact sheet:
Homosexual activists would have us believe that the same is true of their homosexuality. They want us to believe that their homosexual “orientation” is something they are born with, cannot choose whether to accept or reject, and cannot change; and that it does no harm (to themselves or to society), while being protected by the principles of the Constitution.
However, these are empirical questions, subject to being verified or refuted based on the evidence. And the evidence produced by research has simply not been kind to this theoretical underpinning of the homosexual movement. It has become more and more clear that none of the “five-I” criteria apply to the choice to engage in homosexual conduct.1
The homosexual movement is built, not on facts or research, but on mythology. Unfortunately, these myths have come to be widely accepted in society—particularly in schools, universities and the media. It is our hope that by understanding what these key myths are—and then reading a brief summary of the evidence against them—the reader will be empowered to challenge these myths when he or she encounters them.
But then I read this  Thanksgiving 2010 offering from FRC president Tony Perkins about the present "lame duck" session of Congress?

Lame Ducks Talk Turkey

If it means working through Christmas Eve dinner, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is ready. When it comes to overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," that's how committed he is to playing Santa to a microscopic number of homosexuals who want to pink-ify the military. And he's not alone. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) would gladly forgo the figgy pudding to ram the Defense bill through Congress "if it takes that." But while they're off trying to stuff HRC's stocking, Democrats risk playing Scrooge for the rest of America, who needs Congress to focus on the December 31st tax hikes--or risk waking up to a $2,300 invoice from the IRS on January 1.
Whose priorities will win out? The nation won't know until after Thanksgiving when the real Capitol showdown begins. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Justice Stevens : on Ground Zero Mosque "fear of the unknown - is the source of most invidious prejudice"

The Double Crane Memorial

Like many Japanese and Japanese Americans,
 Justice Stevens loves the game of baseball
The National Japanese American Memorial  commemorates those Japanese Americans who died wearing the uniform of the United States and the Japanese Americans put in internment camps during World War II.  Speaking to supporters of the sponsoring foundation retired Justice John Paul Stevens  reflected on the `Ground Zero Mosque'.  A Navy WWII veteran, Stevens's own impulse was to resent the Japanese tourists he saw at in Hawai'i at the Pearl Harbor Memorial - the sunken battleship Arizona,   But reflection led him to the dangers of guilt by association,  And to the basic fact that "fear of the unknown - is the source of most invidious prejudice".  thanks to Adam Liptak of the NY Times for reporting this story.

The entire speech is HERE.   An excerpt follows:
I suspect that many New Yorkers who lost friends or relatives as a result of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11 may have reacted to the news that Muslims are planning to erect a mosque or a religious center in the neighborhood much as I reacted to the sight of the Japanese tourists on the Arizona. Perhaps some of them may have thought: "This is no place for a mosque; Muslims killed innocent Americans herei they should build their places of worship in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else, but not here."

But then, after a period of reflection, some of those New Yorkers may have had second thoughts, just as I did at the Arizona. The Japanese tourists were not responsible for what some of their countrymen did decades ago; the Mus-lims planning to build the mosque are not responsible for what an entirely different group of Muslims did on 9/11. Indeed, terrorists like those who killed over 3 / 000 Americans -including Catholics 1 Jews 1 Protestants atheists and some of the 600 1 000 Muslims who live in New York -have also killed many more Muslims who disagree with their radical views in other parts of the world. Many of the Muslims who pray in New York mosques may well have come to America to escape the intolerance of radicals like those who dominate the Taliban. Descendants of pilgrims who came to America in the 17th century to escape religious persecutions -as well as those who thereafter joined the American political experiment that those people of faith helped launch -should understand why American Muslims should enjoy the freedom to build their places of worship wherever permitted by local zoning laws.
Names of Japanese American veterans killed in WWII

Richard Lugar: Charting His Own Course Against Prevailing Winds -

 I do not use the word  Republican as a derogatory adjective. First because  Abraham Lincoln deserves that respect.  So does  the great judge of the civil rights movement John Minor Wisdom who was known as "Mr. Republican" in Louisiana.  A third reason  is Sen. Richard Lugar (R - Indiana).

I am a social democrat but I believe that my ideas are part of the yin-yang of life. The Chinese concept recognizes that there are existential contradictions. Light is meaningless and useless without dark. Without dark light would blind you. You need edges to see. It is the same with politics: someone has to emphasize the collective and someone else the indvidual. Which does not mean the answer is in the middle. But it does mean that the essentiality of both sides to existence must be recognized.  Richard Lugar represents the individual side of the debate.

His bucking the trend against the Tea Party impulse is discussed informatively in this piece from today's NY Times.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NJ Supreme Court Halts Effort to Recall Senator Menendez

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Tea party activists targeted for recall under state law  U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) - who in 2010 chaired the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.  The New Jersey Supreme Court, 4-2, stopped the effort, saying that it could not permit the waste of resources on a state law-based recall effort that is forbidden under the federal Constitution. 

Two Justices dissented decrying the decision as disenfranchisement of the voters.  But no voter in U.s. history has ever cast a ballot to recall a United States Senator.  The florid dissent by Justice Rivera Soto, joined by Justice Helen Hoens could well have garnered a third vote but for the vacancy created by the expiration of the seven year term of John Wallace.  The Democratic leadership in the state Senate has refused to schedule hearings on his successor until Wallace's 70th birthday - when his retirement would have been compelled by state law.   That is a protest against Gov. Chris Christie's openly ideological refusal to nominate for tenure the centrist jurist. 

The dissenters could well garner a fourth vote when Governor Christopher Christie has another vacancy to fill.  He has vowed to remake the New Jersey judiciary which he considers too liberal - citing its broad zoning mandate to permit low and moderate income housing, and three-decade campaign balanced funding of urban and suburban schools.

The decision is HERE .

Hospital safety: no improvement seen - Is malpractice litigation at fault?

Christopher Landrigan, MD
Christopher Langan of Harvard medical School
is lead author of the study

We are about to see, as part of the Congressional debate, paeans to the American  health care system and denunciation of our civil justice system - particularly medical malpractice litigation.
The president will demonstrate his moderation by intoning solemnly that he supports medical malpractice reform.  

We will be told that fear of malpractice litigation causes billions to be wasted on unnecessary testing - defensive medicine.  But if the tort system has such a powerful motivational effect, then  why doesn't it motivate health care personnel to wash their hands?

The new Rand Institute study of 10 North Carolina hospitals, published HERE in the New England Journal of Medicine reaches these conclusions:

Our findings validate concern raised by patient-safety experts in the United States and Europe that harm resulting from medical care remains very common. Though disappointing, the absence of apparent improvement is not entirely surprising. Despite substantial resource allocation and efforts to draw attention to the patient-safety epidemic on the part of government agencies, health care regulators, and private organizations, 2-4 the penetration of evidence-based safety practices has been quite modest. For example, only 1.5% of hospitals in the United States have implemented a comprehensive system of electronic medical records, and only 9.1% have even basic electronic record keeping in place; only 17% have computerized provider order entry.Physicians-in-training and nurses alike routinely work hours in excess of those proven to be safe.  Compliance with even simple interventions such as hand washing is poor in many centers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Delay, convicted of money laundering, now denounces "the criminalization of politics"

Tom Delay has got religion now: his prosecution is a political vendetta.  This is a good time for him to reflect on the great political vendetta of which he was a prime mover:  the investigations and ultimately impeachment of President William Clinton.  Here is what "the Hammer" had to say back when he was Republican Majority Whip in of the House of Representatives which impeached Clinton - who was acquitted by the Senate:.  Here on the floor of the House he calls for a broad, open-ended impeachment inquiry:

Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) (1998): 

". . . I believe that this nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law.
Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.
Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country.
The president has many responsibilities and many privileges. His chief responsibility is to uphold the laws of this land. He does not have the privilege to break the law. . . ."

In BP Oil Spill, Final Settlement Phase Begins -

In BP Oil Spill, Final Settlement Phase Begins -

Calculated Risk: Existing Home Inventory increases 8.4% Year-over-Year

Calculated Risk: Existing Home Inventory increases 8.4% Year-over-Year

Monday, November 22, 2010

That's the infallible word of God: Congressman Shimkus (R-IL) on Global Warming

"The climate change cadre believes the world is going to be destroyed by man...To think that man can control the world's temperature I think that's very arrogant. For every person who thinks that climate change is terrible there is another person who is ready to adapt to the changes... There's not going to be any climate change legislation.."  That is John Shimkus (R-IL)  ranting in the House about "carbon Democrats".  That's a slur that's new to me.  Maybe he represents Carbondale, Illinois? h/t TPM

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lewis Black - Mark Twain Award - tribute to George Carlin

Pope Benedict calls for guaranteed health care for all people | National Catholic Reporter

Pope calls for guaranteed health care for all people | National Catholic Reporter

Unlearning to Tawk Like a New Yorker -

Some native New Yorkers, the Times' Sam Roberts reports, are paying coaches to rid themselves of their New York accents.  They drilled the newyawkese out of us in high school - at Brooklyn Prep - a Jesuit school in Crown Heights.  (It closed in 1972, but is kept alive in memory by its most illustrious graduate and prominent burnisher of The Prep's virtues - John Sexton, now President of NYU.)

In our weekly classes Mr. O'Connell drilled us to banish the deez, dems and does, etc.   " Pronounce the T's  trippingly off the tongue, Gentlemen!",  O'Connell our diction teacher instructed as we recited together, an unevenly motivated chorus.

Two of the drills I recall are:
Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.
John Stuart Mill, by a mighty effort of the will, wrote principles of political economy.
Unlearning to tawk like a New Yorker by Sam Roberts

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My first IPO: Pro-stimulus GM investment leaves me down $1.00/share in first day of trading

I wanted to show my support for the President, for the (too small) stimulus.  I concluded that what is good for the country is good for General Motors and vice-versa.  And since I have more confidence in the growth strategy of the Chinese Communist Party than in that of the Republican Party I was reassured that the Chevrolet hybrid electric - the Volt - the Car of the Year - has gone on sale in China where I expect the CP to buy a lot of them.
Chevy Volt in China

So on the morning of the GM IPO I placed an order for 200 shares.  Placed at $35.19 about 10 AM.  Closed at 3 PM down $1.00/share.  Well at least I helped the U.S. Treasury by taking some of those shares off its hands.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Obama in Indonesia - well done, well received

James Fallows is astute and alert as usual on the subject of presidential rhetoric.  On of his readers makes this observation about President Obama's trip to Indonesia - a place he knew as a child.  A largely Muslim nation, it is the 4th largest in the world. 
More on Obama in Indonesia - James Fallows - International - The Atlantic

What a performance this was. I can't remember a President making a personal connection with a foreign audience so naturally and with so much grace. The substance of the speech was remarkably on point and subtly conscious of the Indonesian political context (see, for example, the section beginning around minute 16). The personal touches could have come from no other American politician; they were all Obama. I was much more impressed by this speech than I have been by many Obama has made to domestic audiences that received high praise when they were made. If I can just make one brief point about Obama's pronunciation skills. This is something that I've found extraordinarily impressive about the man. I'm fairly certain that he's the only American-born politician who insists on pronouncing Pakistan and Taliban properly (Taleeb-awn) and he manages to do it in a way that doesn't sound affected.

He also pronounces Sonia Sotomayor's name properly, but in the same way as he did "Indonesia" in the speech. He says it properly the first time, and then, knowing that English doesn't flow properly with some foreign languages, he reverts back to the anglicized version for the remainder of the speech.

It's almost a microcosm of him (respectful, thoughtful and then quickly pragmatic),etc.
You can hear the "local" pronunciation of Indonesia, with an obviously different "e" sound and a subtly different "s" sound, ten seconds into Obama's Jakarta speech, and then the anglicized versions thereafter. 

Excerpt from Obama's Jakarta speech:

These are the issues that really matter in our daily lives.  Development, after all, is not simply about growth rates and numbers on a balance sheet.  It’s about whether a child can learn the skills they need to make it in a changing world.  It’s about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not suffocated by corruption.  It’s about whether those forces that have transformed the Jakarta I once knew -- technology and trade and the flow of people and goods -- can translate into a better life for all Indonesians, for all human beings, a life marked by dignity and opportunity.
Now, this kind of development is inseparable from the role of democracy.
Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress.  This is not a new argument.  Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the right of human beings for the power of the state.  But that’s not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see here in Indonesia.  Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another. 
Like any democracy, you have known setbacks along the way.  America is no different.  Our own Constitution spoke of the effort to forge a “more perfect union,” and that is a journey that we’ve traveled ever since.  We’ve endured civil war and we struggled to extend equal rights to all of our citizens.  But it is precisely this effort that has allowed us to become stronger and more prosperous, while also becoming a more just and a more free society.
Like other countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last century, Indonesia struggled and sacrificed for the right to determine your destiny.  That is what Heroes Day is all about -- an Indonesia that belongs to Indonesians.  But you also ultimately decided that freedom cannot mean replacing the strong hand of a colonizer with a strongman of your own

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bowles-Simpson - A millstone instead of a lifeline

A few months ago Josh Marshall asked why did Barack Obama pick Alan Simpson to co-chair his budget commission?  I am afraid to write the President's  and our political obituary but I fear that Obama chose his and our gravediggers when he picked Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to design his long term budget plan.

What Obama needed was a non-partisan not a centrist-rightist bipartisan budget commission.  He needs two plans: one for economic recovery and the other for long term stability.  The least the SOB's could have done was give him a plan that starts in 2014 and works with the restructuring of his  healthcare plan.

I find myself reaching for desperate, tired nautical metaphors.  Is the Democratic House leadership (a decent enough crew) rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?  Is this a rudderless ship?  Has  the helmsman lost his bearings?    

 HERE is Berkeley economist Brad Delong's take:
The Big Question: What is the best and the worst recommendation from the president's debt commission?
Well, two things tie for the worst thing about the president's deficit-reduction commission.
The first is Barack Obama's decision to take a long-time budget arsonist like Alan Simpson--somebody who never found a budget-busting Republican initiative he could not vote for or a deficit-reducing Democratic initiative he could not vote against--and give him a fire chief's hat. As a result, Alan Simpson's ideas are now not Alan Simpson's ideas but instead the "recommendation[s][ from the president's debt commission."
The second is the capping of federal health spending growth at GDP+1%/year. That means that, adjusting the aging of the population, the government is supposed to spend a smaller share of incomes on health care as each year passes. That would require not just the repeal of the Affordable Care Act but the elimination of Medicare as we know it.
The best idea... is it cutting schools for soldiers' kids? Or is it paying for reductions in the top income tax rate by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit so that there are once again lots of families in America where a parent works full time and yet the kids are still in poverty? 
Brad DeLong

Friday, November 12, 2010

ThinkProgress » 9/11 Families Group Calls On Holder To Try KSM In Civilian Courts While Cuomo Objects To New York Trial

In a direct rebuke to Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, who yesterday said he would oppose a trial in New York City Yesterday, Think Progress reports the "September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, wrote an open letter to Holder asking him not to back down from his committment to trying KSM and other alleged co-conspirators in civilian courts in New York. Referencing an earlier meeting with him that took place more than a year ago, the group writes that he told them at the time of his “personal committment to bringing these trials to open, transparent courts.” They end their letter by asking Holder to “not back off from what you know to be right”:
Attorney General Holder:
We, family members of those who died in the attacks of 9/11, entreat you to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his Guantanamo cohorts in federal courts that rely on the U.S. Constitution and the tenets of America’s 200 year-old system of justice. The location is not of consequence, although New York, Virginia, or another venue in the East where most of the families reside, would be optimum. [...]
Many of us met with you face-to-face on June 16, 2009 and you told us at that time of your personal commitment to bringing these trials to open, transparent courts. Please do not back off from what you know to be right.
ThinkProgress » 9/11 Families Group Calls On Holder To Try KSM In Civilian Courts While Cuomo Objects To New York Trial

Robotic surgery is going mainstream: Watch for healthcare costs to skyrocket

Eric Topol, MD
Robotic surgery is expensive - and it has not been validated clinically. How should we control these costs?

67 stents, 28 coronary angiograms, and a crippled healthcare system

Eric Topol is a leading cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic/CaseWestern.
His video comments invite discussion.
67 stents, 28 coronary angiograms, and a crippled healthcare system

A recent case report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology of a 56-year-old patient with 67 stents and a history of 28 coronary angiograms is symbolic of a healthcare system that is barreling out of control fueled by outrageous costs and unbridled use of procedures.
Is this an example of appropriate standard of care? Should we be concerned that this case is indicative of a system that has lost its way?
Khouzam RN, Dahiya R, and Schwartz R. A heart with 67 stents. J Am Coll Cardiol.2010;56;1605. Abstract.

In-House Salary Range Breakdown: Salaries by the Numbers

In-House Salary Range Breakdown: Salaries by the Numbers Thanks to ALM corporate counsel

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Obama - ready to roll over on tax cuts for upper income people?

The Chief of staff of a Democratic Senator makes `off the record' comments on the Obama administration's readiness to compromise on upper income tax rates.

"There is a prevailing view among many people that both parties are dominated by the rich, and that voting doesn't really make a difference. If we want low and middle-income Americans to think we don't have the spine to fight for them, then how are we going to convince them to vote for us? If David Axelrod has an answer for that, I'd like to know what it is."
Tell Me About It | Talking Points Memo

Judge John J. Farley, III - Wounded Vet Returns to New Career and Life

Jack Farley was two years ahead of me at Holy Cross. His family  lived in old Harbour Green - near us in Massapequa. He was a favorite of my mother who taught in the district.   In college Jack was the kind of guy who we called "a good man", as in do you know Jack Farley?  "a good man" was the affirmative reply. Friendly, smart, captain of the lacross team. He was drafted in 1967, went to Vietnem, lost a leg, survived, became a lawyer and a judge on the Court of Veterans Appeals. After retirement he has devoted himself to counseling wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army hospital in D.C.
Military inStep: Profile: Hon. Judge John J. Farley, III - Wounded Vet Returns to New Career and Life

Is the Deficit Commission Serious? | Mother Jones

Half the discretionary budget is military to which the southern-strategy Republicans are ideologically and materially and geographically attached. The Democrats are too cowed by flag-wavers to seriously cut unnecessary defense spending. Cross military cuts off the list. 

Next is cutting Social Security for younger people, cut government salaries, shrink government. That will save money now, help create poverty sooner or later or both. Cutting other people's income  and benefits is the tough, manly thing to do so Erskine Bowles (never trust someone with two last names) and Alan Simpson (never trust a Republican from Wyoming) go there. 

Kevin Drum in Mother Jones (link below) gets it right:

To put this more succinctly: any serious long-term deficit plan will spend about 1% of its time on the discretionary budget, 1% on Social Security, and 98% on healthcare. Any proposal that doesn't maintain approximately that ratio shouldn't be considered serious. The Simpson-Bowles plan, conversely, goes into loving detail about cuts to the discretionary budget and Social Security but turns suddenly vague and cramped when it gets to Medicare. That's not serious.
Is the Deficit Commission Serious? | Mother Jones
h/t TPM and Greg Sargent

The Bowles-Simpson Plan

Just in case it has legs, HERE is the draft release by the two co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Graphic warnings: the New FDA warnings

The cigarette companies (think Newport) long sold images of romance, of nubile couples strolling along white sand beaches.   No more, if the FDA has its way, now that it has the statutory authority to regulate tobacco sales. HERE are its proposed graphic warnings.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The election in two charts

Unemployment claims stay flat (i.e. bad) h/t James Fallows

Personal consumption is down     ht/t  Brad Delong
Solution: stimulus: put money in people's hands to stimulate production
The wrong way: the Christopher Christie approach: austerity budgets (stop spending money).  That depresses demand and reduces production, driving down prices, further depressing demand..

Thursday, November 4, 2010 - Republican House, Senate Gains Pose Peril and Opportunity for Obama

Pres. Obama congratulates John Boehner on election night
The analysts at the National Journal - an inside the beltway bible - are more level-headed than the copy cats who dominate cable TV and the rest of the daily press.  It is painful but necessary to confront the hard facts. 
Matthew Cooper observes:
Despite Clinton and Reagan’s recovery [after big mid-term election losses], the prospects are not good for Obama. Midterm defeats in 1966, 1978, 1990, and 2006 presaged the party in power losing the White House. What is certain is that Obama, who ran on hope, now needs to worry about survival.

Whether Obama can be as politically nimble as Clinton or Reagan and whether the Republicans will exceed their mandate remains to be seen. When he holds a press conference in the East Room of the White House to discuss the election results, he may well be asked the same question that was posed to Clinton shortly after his 1994 drubbing: Are you still relevant? Clinton answered that the Constitution made him so. And if Obama is at all like Clinton, he'll signal his willingness to work with the new Republican leadership and save a combative tone for another day. On election night, the president monitored the results from the residence of the White House.
If he's looking to Clinton for an example, the president may also consider a serious staff realignment. While he kept his Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, he brought in Morris as a near parallel chief of staff. Of course, Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, has already departed and other senior staff, such as David Axelrod, his top political adviser, will head for the campaign in 2011. But it's entirely possible that other seats may change hands. Obama will send a signal of his intentions when he announces a replacement for Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council. On MSNBC, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said that the president would be wise to reach out to someone with executive experience such as Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State who endorsed Obama's presidential bid in 2008.
Full article HERE

It is hard to get the magic back.  Obama's theme of change led to a tough slog on healthcare - which enraged the right and disappointed the left.

Clinton had the health care defeat but the economy was flowing the right way.  Though he didn't have the burden of the racism that tinges anti-Obama sentiment he did have bitter enemies.  But since the economy was strong he could weather the calumnies and gained re-election.  Which was followed of course by the impeachment debacle.  

The Divide: Obama and McConnell

President Obama and Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell differ on principle and on style.  This video -merged bits from yesterday's appearances by each of the men contrast the style and policy differences.

Many commentators who count themselves among the "disappointed' (e.g. Roger Cohen, Nicholas Kristof, and Maureen Dowd - all of the Times) have been complaining that Obama is aloof, inauthentic, etc.  That something has gone wrong is obvious.  We have lost a lot of support that we thought we had.  The opposition is incensed and ascending.  But given a choice between Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama the choice for me the thoughtfulness of Obama stands out.

WTF has Obama Done So Far?

A good catalog of legislative and other accomplishments in the last two years


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Iowa Judges Defeated After Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage -

NO Activist Judges
Judicial deference to the popular will is a tricky issue.  Judicial activism has been a right wing rallying  cry since the John Birch Society began its impeach Earl Warren campaign.

I practiced in New Jersey for thirty years. No judicial elections care - and an independent judiciary thrived.  But the state Supreme Court's  decisions on affordable housing, equality of suburban and urban school funding, and the death penalty provoked much resentment.  But the judges were insulated from angry conservative legislators by gubernatorial adherence to the principal that competence and integrity were the only issues to be considered when judges came up for tenure after seven years.  That principle was breached this summer by Gov. Christopher Christie who refused to nominate for tenure a centrist justice of the Supreme Court.  Widespread denunciation of the Governor by the bar followed.  But he hasn't budged.  Nor has the Legislature which refuses to act on his nominee - Anne Patterson.

The political influence that the New Jersey bar fears hit home today with the defeat of three judges of the Iowa Supreme Court  who had voted in favor of gay marriage.  The story is HERE

The Republicans: no more party of no | James Antle | Comment is free |

James Antle, in the Guardian (London):  No More Party of NO
John Boehner - tears of joy

The Democrats lost this election because they failed to appreciate the fundamental disconnect between the two distinct groups of voters who brought them to power in the first place: the Democrats' progressive base, which wanted to move the country to the left, and the independents, who merely wanted to be rid of George W Bush. Satisfying the first group always carried the risk of alienating the second.
And alienate them they did. In 2006, 57% of independents voted for Democratic House candidates. Two years later, they broke for Barack Obama by eight points. This year, independents voted 55% to 40% for Republican congressional candidates. That's a shift from a 18-point Democratic advantage to a 15-point Republican one, in just four years.
The Republicans now face the same risk the Democrats did after the last two elections, and they don't seem to be any more aware of it. Their conservative base, typified by the Tea Party, wants to move the country to the right. The independent voters merely wanted to rebuke Obama and fire Nancy Pelosi. In the process, they replaced a Congress that was to the left of the electorate as a whole with one that is to its right.

Obama on Government Investment

I get pretty sick of hearing talk of cutting government spending.  A ride on a 300 mph train in Shanghai should cure you of that if nothing else will, so I was pleased to hear President Obama talking about such things today.

Pres. Obama:
I don't think we should be cutting back on research and development, because if we can develop new technologies in areas like clean energy, that could make all the difference in terms of job creation here at home.
I think the proposal that I've put forward with respect to infrastructure is one that historically we've had bipartisan agreement about. And we should be able to agree now that it makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us and Singapore having better airports than us.
And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth. That used to be us. They're making investments, because they know those investments will pay off over the long term.
And so in these budget discussions, the key is to be able to distinguish between stuff that isn't adding to our growth, isn't an investment in our future, and those things that are absolutely necessary for us to be able to increase job growth in the future as well.
Now, the single most important thing I think we need to do economically - and this is something that has to be done during the lame-duck session - is making sure that taxes don't go up on middle-class families next year. And so we've got some work to do on that front to make sure that, you know, families not only aren't seeing a higher tax burden, which will automatically happen if Congress doesn't act, but also making sure that business provisions that historically we have extended each year that, for example, provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States, in research and development - that those are extended.
I think it makes sense for us to extend unemployment insurance, because there are still a lot of folks out there hurting.
So there are some things that we can do right now that will help sustain the recovery and advance it, even as we're also sitting down and figuring out, OK, over the next several years, what kinds of budget cuts can we make that are intelligent, that are smart, that won't be undermining our recovery, but in fact will be encouraging job growth.

John Judis: Obama's Failure

John Judis, in The New Republic (a magazine I rarely read because of the insufferable Martin Peretz who owns it), has a trenchant analysis, which, I am pained to say, rings true to me: Obama was too timid economically and insufficiently  populist  about the Wall Streeters whose gambling and greed produced the crisis:
Two things are then required of a president: bold and unprecedented initiatives that address the underlying economic problems, and a populist—and sometimes polarizing—politics that marshals support for these initiatives and disarms the opposition. Obama failed on both counts: His economic program—no matter how large in comparison to past efforts—was too timid, as many liberal economists recognized; and Obama proved surprisingly inept at convincing the public that even these efforts were necessary.
 But Obama, who was uncomfortable with the rhetoric of populism and apportioned blame on Main Street as well as Wall Street, left a political vacuum that the right-wing populists of the Tea Party filled. They even managed to portray Obama and the Democrats as the patrons of Wall Street. When asked who was most to blame for “current economic problems,” a plurality of voters yesterday said “Wall Street bankers” rather than George W. Bush or Barack Obama. But amazingly, these voters backed Republicans by 56 to 42 percent. That testifies to the utter failure of the Obama administration’s politics.

A Lost Generation

Slate: U.S. is not greatest country ever - Michael Kinsley -

Why do Americans need to hear so often that this is the greatest country on earth?  And why do we have to repeatedly hear about trusting the decency and common sense of the American people.   Just as true of the Chinese people, don't you think?  I see no evidence that when the good lord handed out horse sense he stopped overlong at our stall. Michael Kinsley explains:

Having spent a month to a couple of years and many millions of dollars trying to snooker voters, politicians awaiting poll results Tuesday will declare that they put their faith in “the fundamental wisdom of the American people.”
Not me. Democracy requires me to respect the results of the elections. It doesn’t require me to agree with them or to admire the process by which voters made up their minds. In my view, anyone who voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and now is supporting some tea party madwoman for senator has a bit of explaining to do. But the general view is that the voters, who may be fools individually, are infallibly wise as a collective — that their “anger,” their urgent desire, yet again, for “change,” is self-validating.
Read more: 
Opinion: U.S. is not greatest country ever - Michael Kinsley -

Yes, We Can - a personal odyssey

1972 was a shock.  Nixon re-elected.  George McGovern won only Massachusetts.  But  I was too far left to commit to McGovern.  I was a staffer for Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda's Indochina Peace Campaign.

1984 was one of the worst years for Democrats.  We won only Minnesota. 
It was hard to overcome 1984 for me: I was deeply involved in the Mondale campaign and was a member of the Democratic National Platform Committee. 

In 1992 I had a seat in the viewing stands for Bill Clinton's first term.  Then came 1994 and the Contract with America.  And of course the sex scandal and the impeachment trial.

In 2008 I shared the Yes We Can euphoria - and believed for a minute that the Republicans would self-destruct.  I still think they will.  And we will ride high again.

Here to serve memory are the 1984 and 1972 electoral maps.  Things are not that bad now, though the House map is going to look pretty bad in the morning.

HERE is the link the electoral maps.